Near missing with George Jones

With the passing of the legend, George Jones, I have to revisit the could-a-been of a song.

I had moved to Nashville after producing a string of Lps there for a North Carolina label called Collegetown Records. It was the early 80s and after the demise of Collegetown, I picked up from the middle of the tarheel state and went to where the world as I hoped to know it was waiting. I bought and renovated a house in Berry Hill from a hugely successful songwriter named Ben Peters (Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers, among many others) and began trying to insinuate myself into the grist mill of Music City, the songwriting capitol of the world.

It is an iconic place.  From Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline to Dylan's counter culture Nashville Skyline to the current cookie-cutter sound alikes of every new male or female artist on the 10-song rotation of contemporary radio, BNA has been a mecca of inspiration for millions of musicians and writers, and it's the center of one of the richest music scenes in the world.  The talent there will humble the most intrepid of self-believers.  The writers are an amazing collection of stories, Even Stevens sleeping on the side of the road in a VW bug writing and pitching during the day until Eddie Rabbitt began recording his material. He moved out of the VW pretty quickly after that.  There are many, many others.

So, I began writing what I thought was country.  Actually, anything can be country, but at the time I began exploring it from a jazz and blues side of things, because in reality I wasn't legit. I had grown up hearing the strains of Dolly and Porter and Conway and Johnny and Tammy and Doc, all firmly in the pantheon of a first-name only world of celebrity, but I was a Clapton/Alman Brothers/Beatles devotee with a knack for a commercial hook. I had not been on the road with anyone in the genre. It had been funk or blues or rock 'n roll. Now, it had to be country.

The first song was, what else, but a cheatin' and drinkin' piece called Drink Her Right Out Of My Mind. It's a poignant number about a man who finds out about the inevitable and copes through the elixir of pain abatement by way of a bottle. I played it for a friend when I had just finished it and she cried.  I thought maybe I had something.

But the bridge goes from a basic E triad to an A Major 7 and begins to depart a little from a straight ahead country progression to a more jazz influenced one.  So, it was really no surprise when a guy I knew who was working with Ronnie Milsap told me it would not fly in country music.  He thought I should rewrite it.

I would almost rather write a new song than continue to edit one I think is complete and thought, well, maybe someday someone might record it.  So, I took it to CBS records. I didn't know their roster, and I couldn't say, "I have the perfect song for so and so."  I just wanted someone else to give it a listen since it was obviously not the perfect song for Ronnie Milsap.

Nashville is remarkable because if you have a modicum of credibility you can get in to see just about anyone, once.  I was able to get to CBS.  I only wanted to present one song, that song, and the girl screening material told me to come by and she would give it a few minutes.  You really cannot ask more than that.

But you have to be realistic.  There are thousands of writers pitching thousands of songs everyday.  Still, I was at CBS and the cassette demo, guitar and voice only, was under consideration.  After she listened to it she looked at me with a bit of surprise and said, "This is a good song.  I like the way it moves from straight ahead country to these more progessive sounding chords.  And you know, George Jones is in the studio this week with Billy Sherrill. I'm going to send it over for them to listen to.  I think the album is almost finished, but they might like to hear this."

I left the CBS building on Music Row thinking I had just pitched my first attempt at country to a major label and they were going to put it before the most iconic singer in the industry, George friggin' Jones! Beyond that I figured the song didn't have much of a chance.

It was the next day that I got a call from Margie at CBS.  Her words were an amazement. "Winslow, I played your song for George and Billy and they want to record it.  They think it's going to be George's next single."  Stunned comes to mind.  I had hit the mother lode.  George Jones was going to release Drink Her Right Out Of My Mind as the next single in one of the most storied careers in all of popular music.

I didn't go buy a new car.  I didn't even say anything to anyone. I just basked in a new reality of the life I had always wanted - to be in music writing, producing, playing, anything.  And now in Nashville, years of effort were about to pay off.  But I had to wait.

Good thing, I guess.  Life can pitch you a few curves and the following week the home run I had hit was snagged at the fence. It happen in realtime.  I was watching the news on Channel 5. The lead story showed a picture of a white cadillac on the side of Interstate 65 South at the Brentwood exit.  "Legendary country star, George Jones, is in trouble again.  We'll have the full story coming up on News Channel 5 live at Six..." That didn't sound promising.

George had been pulled over by a state trooper for erratic driving and a Channel 5 news truck just happened upon the scene. They rolled film and George gave them everything they needed for the exclusive.  It was not a pretty sight.  We knew the stories.  George through the tumultuous years with Tammy. She took his keys once so he couldn't drive to a bar. He took the riding lawnmower.  "No Show Jones" whose concert cancelations on almost any night were a promoter's nightmare.  The pecadillos.  The hard living.  Now, he was caught on camera beligerent then sobbing then...  Then came the call.

"Winslow, we've decided to take George in a different direction. We're not going to record any more cheatin' and drinkin' songs..."  I didn't have to hear more.  It was a done deal.

Pinnacle to the pit.  First to worst.  Penthouse to flophouse.  All in fewer than seven days.

I've told this story a few times to some friends here and there. Drink Her Right Out Of My Mind is still in my catalog, though I have to admit I've let it lie dormant as country has gone to pickup truck parties out in fields and guys singing about redneck girls and longneck bottles.  Girls dragging keys down guys' cars in jealous revenge and tequila making her clothes fall off.  I guess cheatin' and drinkin' is as much in vogue now as ever.

However, George is gone.  That mournful baritone is now silent. Would that part of his legacy was a song that would have been perfect for him.  But it's part of whatever legacy I happen to leave. Modest, I understand, but I can still hear the what could have been voice on the phone, "...it's going to be his next single."

Maybe that's enough.

 

 

And then Sopó

When the music fades, you turn and look out the bank of windows behind the stage at Islamorada and this is what you see. Any questions?  The staggering beauty of the Colombian landscape melts the apprehension of the set you just played in the realization that nature's handiwork trumps the designs of man every time.

The drive to this popular club 20 miles north of Bogotá can be a bit tortuous, especially on Sunday mornings.  That's the day of family outtings and La Ciclovia, a remarkable city-wide event where lanes of major thoroughfares are closed to vehicular traffic so people can get out and walk or ride bikes for miles undisturbed. The main artery leading north from El Centro downtown is called Septima, or 7th Ave.  Up past Rosales, the community of upscale office buildings where most embassies are located and nestled into the side of the ridge of Andes to the east, is the right turn to La Calera.  La Calera is a town on the way to Sopó, our destination for last week's mid-afternoon gig.

Tortuous is putting it mildly.  The road over to La Calera is two-lanes and often rutted by cracked pavement.  During La Ciclovia, it's also a biker's world with the stalwart and intrepid cycling up with an almost craven disregard for cars heading in the same direction.  Many times you slow to a crawl as the two-wheelers bobble and swerve back and forth climbing to the toll station near a crest.  The rest of the way to Sopó winds and twists through some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet.

So, with a sound check scheduled for 10:00AM, our 9:30 departure initially seemed workable, well, until it ran into the reality of three players having worked the night before.  In Colombia, things go late, 3:30 AM... so when at 10:00 our bleary eyed group hit the highway and La Ciclovia, we had to adjust all expectations.  Our objective was to run our set, learn a new stage setup and sound system, and be ready to go at 2:30.  Alas, the best laid plans of musicians and clubs. No sound engneer, an in-ear monitoring system suddenly supplemented by a couple of brand new floor monitors, and a very "live" room.  When the engineer did arrive, we were an hour behind schedule, and in-ear monitors require hours of setup.  We had to go with the speakers on the floor.

For anyone who plays live, sound is essential.  Players need to hear their instruments in the context of the stage mix, and singers need to hear themselves, period.  Long story short, it was a bit dicey.  But we soldiered on, rehearsed the set for an hour and a half, I blew out my voice, and when we were two thirds of the way through the performance the 8000' altitude took its toll. Pitch became optional, and what started out with a great groove began to muddle into a less than sparkling rendition of a combination of CD cuts and some pretty cool arrangements of a few jazz standards.  The crowd was enthusiastic, but a sudden low frequency hum in the sound system began to drag on things.  It was tough.  But we rallied on an encore of Miles Davis' "All Blues" and finished on a reasonably high note.

Still, when you do this, you demand a lot of yourself, and when you can't deliver no matter how hard you try, you feel like you've let everyone down.  Sure, you're always harder on yourself than the situation deserves, but in your heart you know...  That's when you turn and look out the bank of windows at that stunning view.

Live in Bogotá!

Life in the music business is always a trip, and when you travel back and forth between the US and the capital city of Colombia, you're always in for a surprise or two.

The first came when the US Embassy 4th of July Picnic Celebration went from being a couple of 15-minute solo sets in between breaks taken by a national military band to a full fledged concert set on the main stage just before the Ambassador spoke.  There was an invitation only crowd of about 1000 and a fair amount of anticipation. The band I was able to pull together was only going to have one rehearsal. Needless to say there were a few nerves fraying at the Embassy, because they weren't exaclty sure what they were getting.  They only knew that the national military band could not do the gig and El Gringo Latino was now the headliner.

No problema!  I had asked Oscar Acevedo to join me.  Oscar is the celebrated jazz pianist who only a year before had introduced me to Toño Castillo which led to the recording of "Coffee Colored Eyes." He's a consummate professional with incredible chops. Also on board were percussionist Jose Luis Escobar and bassist Paul Rodriguez, both of whom had played on the CD along with Oscar.  Our one rehearsal two days earlier had gone flawlessly.  We had "Coffee Colored Eyes" down.  The photos on the website and Facebook show a quartet enjoying the heck out what they do.  And afterward, CDs were sold and signed, photos were taken and the band pulled the gig off beautifully despite a dicey sound system and some charts caught up in a sudden breeze.

But a couple of other things came about that were totally unexpected.  Oscar plays at the top club in Bogotá on Monday nights when they feature jazz.  Andrés Carne de Res has been written up in the New York Times as a must see attraction here.  It's a cacaphony of sight and sound, but the jazz crowd comes out and fills the place.  After we played the Embassy, he asked me to come and sit in with his talented trio comprising Juan Camilo Anzola on drums and Alejandro Fernandez on bass.  Gina Savino is their excellent singer, so being asked to join them is no small deal in my book.  As they did not have a chance to work with the charts from "Coffee Colored Eyes," we ran some standards on the fly.  Gina sang in Portuguese, English and Spanish and we duetted on some things.  More pictures are on the website and Facebook.  A very cool evening.

Now, the third surprise. I have actually played a couple of parties - in Bogotá, parties are always musical events - where the remakable and popular Andrés Cepeda has also sung.  We met through Toño Castillo and have tried our hand at writing together.  But Andrés owns a beautiful club a few miles outside of Bogotá called Restaurante Islamorada.  It's a stop and a major hang for artists on tour around the country.  After the Embassy show, we were asked to come out and play next Sunday!

So, the merry band is off on another venture that was only to have been a couple of short fill-in-some-time sets.  All in all it's been one hekuva week for this Gringo.

Back To Bogotá...

At some point I'm going to finish that song. In my head it's a cool groove about this crazy place, problem is it's still in my head.  But being here live after a two-month stint back in the States does get the creative juices flowing again.  You gotta love Bogotá!  It's now the dry season, and it's spectacular. Clear, dry air blowing big puffs of clouds through a sky so blue you could drink it.  Verdant mountains and flowers everywhere.  But there is el trafico loco, and the best analogy is that it's like driving in a school of fish.  Cars, trucks, busetas, taxis bobbing and weaving, but never touching.  Pretty amazing, actually.

Last week was a whirlwind of gig preparation and playing. The Moonlighters, a fine big band of excellent players doing great charts, was Thursday night for the Town of Cary.  It was the last of a series of free outdoor concerts the city puts on at the crossroads of downtown.  Very cool event and many appreciative folks dancing in the streets.  Then Friday and Saturday nights at the Umstead Hotel, which is another world entirely - five star and stunning.

Things go from 21 pieces to 2 as Gene Barrio and I do the duo thing.  Gene and I have been playing together for eight years in all kinds of groups and iterations.  Trios, quartets, rock. jazz, even ballroom dance for a blessedly short time.  But the duo is where we work best, at least it's what gets the most jobs.  Gene's work on the upright bass makes it easy.  I just sit back and ride the groove.  We know each other so well that when we occasionally take sidetrips and find ourselves in the nether world of musical delirium, we can usually bring each other back to reality.  What's great fun is when both of us go off and find our way back together.  Boom, we tag a phrase or hit the downbeat in perfect synch, look over at the other guy and smile...

But now it's back to the reality of the business of music.  The new CD, "Coffee Colored Eyes," is getting some traction with a few retailers picking it up.  The video is in 59 countries and cruising along. Interviews are being scheduled, and there's an important gig coming up at the US Embassy here, so it's time to rehearse the new band and see what happens.

If it's anything like the last several performances, it'll be a blast!

Café Havana is on "Caribbean Feeling"

Cartagena de las Indias, Colombia

Café Havana, the famous Cubano watering hole on the Caribbean coast and setting for numerous film scenes over the years, serves as a backdrop to the new video of Winslow Stillman's "Caribbean Feeling." Filmed and directed by Rodrigo Mendoza, the storyline takes liberties with the lyrics of the Winslow Stillman/Steve Dean composition rendering a compelling tale of what might have been in the historic Colombian port city.

http://cafehavanacartagena.com/

Scroll down through the pages of Café Havana's rich, musical history and "Caribbean Feeling" is one touch away.

"Caribbean Feeling" is the first single off the recently released CD by Winslow Stillman entitled, "Coffee Colored Eyes," recorded in Bogotá by Latin Grammy nominated producer, Toño Castillo, and featuring Latin jazz violin virtuoso, Alfredo de la Fe.

Also vist: http://www.winslowstillman.com

Video Village

Good things come to those who wait...  And it was worth it to let Rodrigo work his magic on "Caribbean Feeling."  Que buena suerte!  The original idea was to take a few photos of the historic port city that was so important to the Spanish exploits in South America - and Cartagena has seen more than its fair share of war and plunder over the centuries.  But that idea was trumped by Andrés Anzola, the graphic designer on "Coffee Colored Eyes," when he suggested we contact his cousin, Patricia Ruiz, a media professor there, who in turn recommended Rodrigo Mendoza to shoot a video instead.  So, a slide show became a short film, and Cartagena is center stage.

Rodrigo took some liberties, which you have to allow the creative sorts because that's when they do their best work.  He departed pretty much entirely from the "script" suggested by the lyrics of the song. His idea was for the "island in my mind" to become a succession of missed opportunities for a romantic encounter.  A transliteral interpretation of the director's reasoning, "...it's much more interesting to have the song go in one direction and the film go in another."  And he's right on.  Instead of a travelogue with the expected realization of the protagonist with the Caribbean beauty sharing a "sunset sail," he ends up having "another margarita" alone reminiscing about the near miss.  Very cool disconnect.

And the Caribbean beauty is left entirely to the imagination, despite a number of inquiries for her phone number.  She is, after all, a dream, Sí?

Press: What stayed in Cartagena - News & Observer

What stayed in Cartagena, News & Observer By Winslow Stillman: reprint available at N&O website.

 

Down And Dirty At The Summit

Why can’t they get it right?  It’s Cartagena. That’s CartaHEYna not Cartageña, with a NYah.  Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews butchers it from time to time, and he moderated one of the most important sessions at the Hilton, where Presidents Obama, Santos and Dilma-Rouseff held forth on the current state of the Western Hemisphere.  Santos of Colombia, representing the host nation, and Dilma-Rousseff, the guerilla-turned-politician-now-president of Brazil, challenged the US president on everything from the war on drugs and free trade to Cuba.  This latter topic had been deftly handled by Santos when, before the Summit of the Americas even began, he flew to meet with the Castros to explain why they were not invited – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made it clear the United States would not attend if the crumbing communist dictatorship did.  

The rest of the US press has mangled the name of the ancient port city on the Caribbean innumerable times since- but not in reporting on what are arguably the most important issues facing North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.  No.  Rather it has been in pursuit of the sordid and salacious, the whoring about by certain members of the Secret Service and military advance teams at the Caribe Hotel, just a short walk from where President Obama would be staying at the Hilton.  The details are regurgitated in daily updates on how one of the most venerated agencies in the US government broke faith, oath and tradition in a conspiracy of debauchery.  Que verguenza!  What a disgrace. 

Yes, a disgrace.  But the real story – because the Secret Service will mend its ways and the offending agents removed or reassigned- is the offense of their actions before our disgruntled partners to the south.  And partners they are, or should be.  A recent article in The Economist stated that if Brazil and the United States would make the effort, one of the most powerful economic blocs in the world could be formed.  Then there are the giant strides Colombia has made against narco-terrorism while emerging from decades of tragic, almost suicidal political warfare as La FARC has seen its Hydra heads systematically cut off.  The triumph of US foreign policy there, the free trade agreement being implemented, the success of the Summit of the Americas are lost, and not in translation but neglect. 

A major US ally’s hemispheric showcase is blighted by the actions of a few.  But the US press ignores that aspect of the affair, just as it will not devote coverage to the emerging economies and opportunities to the south, beginning with Colombia.

There is more to this black eye and egg on the face of the US.  There is the disservice to the diplomatic staff of the US Embassy in Bogotá charged with managing the finances and logistics of a US contingency from Washington bloated by CODELs (Congressional Delegations), several spouses in tow, who had to be ferried about to tourist sights and gratuitous meetings with anyone who would give them a few minutes so they could garner a bit of ink for their constituents back home.  The US delegation was ten times larger than Venezuela’s, which was hoping in vain that the ailing Hugo Chavez would somehow make an appearance and tout, or defend, his failing efforts in central government controls and the denial of rights to private enterprise.   No other country came close in size of representation.

So, how is this story being reported here?  A scheduling overlap for a music video to accompany a recently released CD that was being shot in the scenic streets of the old city provided a first hand view of this event.  I also helped with an art exhibit by a local Colombian artist and was able to see the Presidential motorcade being practiced and in real time as it raced along the seawall to the Hilton.  Two limousines, one a decoy, twenty vehicles – many flown in on C-130 cargo planes.  700 staffers from the States, people who had to be lodged and fed and bused or driven around.  Helicopters and a submarine lurking offshore.  A press corps the size of the entire delegations from most countries making headlines of Hillary Clinton letting her hair down for thirty minutes at a local club.   A weary but dedicated group of US Embassy personnel who performed flawlessly, but with little thanks.

And all the American people care about, or rather are being told, is the story about a renegade group of agents in disgrace because of call girls.

Winslow Stillman

 

Cartagena

The difference between Cartagena and Bogotá is the difference between Earth and Moon.  And with the Summit of the Americas going on - or La Cumbre de las Américas as it's known to the world south of Orlando - this 17-day stint has opened a wild window on the universe of Colombia, the US, all of South America for that matter, and, of course, the business of music.

Where to start...

It's hot here.  It'll melt you.  Even the most dedicated worshipers del sol get their comeuppance in this sun. You slow down, to a crawl at times, because when you're wrapped in a blanket of humidity that only a port on the Caribbean can throw around you, you don't want to move.  There are breezes, persistent winds that funnel through the ancient streets of the old city providing blessed relief and making the shade of a palm tree tolerable enough.  But that sun...  It laughs at A/C and sunblock.  

Cartagena is a coastal beauty, though.  As mentioned before, it was the most important port on the Spanish Main for a couple of centuries and has a story of pillage an plunder rivaling any tales told of the Barbary Coast.  The fortress wall that rings it is remarkably intact and offers an amazing vantage for viewing Caribbean sunsets and the colonial architecture lining the narrow, cobbled streets meandering haphazardly below it.  Across the old port entrance is el Castillo, or what is really more of a huge rock of a fort some 30 or 40 meters high.  It's impressive.  Massive.  And at night, after that infernal sun slips into the sea, the whole place takes on a magical cast as church steeples, the wall, the streets light up, coming alive and aglow beneath an inky South American sky filled with stars.  

Earth and Moon is an apt comparison here, too, becuase just up the coast is a spit of land called Bocagrande, which is the large portal to the Caribbean.  It's Miami, or Recife, or any place where high rises tower along the beach - gleaming hotels and apartments providing a sharp contrast of modernity to the antiquity of the old city.  At the end of that long, curving penninsula is the Hilton.

Watching President Obama's motorcade being practiced during the days before his actual arrival was a study in logistics and global reality, because it demonstrated a number of things.  First, Colombia, as the host country of this 35 member-nation assemblage, is responsible for all security.  And they are quite serious about making this place inhospitable to international n'er do wells.  Sirens screaming from motorcycles driven by green and yellow vested cops, helicopters overhead supervising a lengthy phalanx of black SUVs and limousines, a decoy and the real one, make for an impressive deterence, especially when you see, after the fact, the black-clad snipers who were perched atop those aforementioned high rises standing down.

Another remarkable thing is the whole event has done little to subordinate the casual, carefree character of el Caribe.  The ancient attitudes are largely indifferent to what have turned out to be stoplight inconveniences as motorcades roll by to who knows where.  You never really know who's in them.  Except for when the President of the United States is.  That's when things come to a complete stop.   And stop they did when that motorcade was being lined up at the Hilton for a celebratory dinner atop el Castillo and a couple of bombs were reported on the outskirts of town.  They were on the heels of two more reported back in Bogotá.  Both were non-events, but they are reminders that for some degenerates the revolution will be televised.  After a two-hour delay, the all-clear was signaled and PTOS was on his way to the party.

Watching the US Embassy staff from Bogotá in high gear has been equally impressive.  It's a study in detail and redundancy, because in today's US economy everything must be accounted for. There must be 1400 White House staffers alone, CODELs (Congressional Delegations) who must be tendered about wth their tagalong spouses who must be entertained as the Congressionals seek out a little face time with whomever from the region will give it to them.  Lodgings, motorpools, communications, the logistics of a 2 1/2 day PTOS visit is what is at the heart of the US Embassy mission in any country, so to see it going full tilt is quite something.

But no one expected the debauchery and disgrace brought on the Secret Service by 22 agents and military who sought out a little "face time" of their own when they decided to flaunt oath and office by whoring about in their hotel only a short walk from where PTOS would be staying.  Hubris and impunity that not only cost the US taxpayer large sums in penalties, but should cost the Director of the Secret Service his job for being on deck during a very bad watch over the biggest scandal in that venerated agency's history.

Back at the Hilton, Presidents Obama, Santos, and Dilma-Rousseff of Brazil were being moderated by Chris Matthews of MSNBC on the more important matters of trade agreements, the war on drugs, and Cuba.  Shakira addressed the need for educating the poor.  Hillary Clinton and Ambassador McKinley locked in policy dialog while descending the staircase to the lobby.  Unfortunately, back in the States the sordid and salacious seems to be dominating the headlines...

This little vignette was going to cover a rather colorful day spent filming a video for "Caribbean Feeling."  That will have to wait for the next blog.  But suffice it to say that the creativity and attention to detail of Rodrigo and his crew in Cartagena is every bit as good as the music production done in Bogotá for "Coffee Colored Eyes."  It'll be interesting to see the first cut tomorrow.

WS 

 

Back in Bogotá

Ah, the rainy season...  This place is about 120 miles north of the equator on an Andean plateau. At 8600' it's perpetual springtime and during the season from March through mid-May it rains. Sometimes a lot.  But that's why Bogotá is always in bloom.  The mountains rimming the city are lush and green.  Every street is lit up in a profusion of orange flowered vines, or iridescent impatiens, pink azaleas, all kinds of exotic flowering shrubs and trees.  When the sun shines it's amazingly intense, and when there's cloud cover the temperatures can drop into the 50's.  You always carry an umbrella this time of year.  And one of the most useful articles of clothing is a scarf you can muzzle around your neck.

I've been coming to Colombia for well over a year and half.  The first trip was right after Santos was inaugurated as president and began a rapprochement with Chavez of Venezuela.  Four days later a bomb went off six blocks from here.  La FARC blew up a car on a main thoroughfare in front of a major radio station in an effort to silence a broadcaster critical of their ongoing rape and pillage and frequent kidnappings of less fortunate souls in the southwest jungles near the Amazon.  They don't care about collateral damage, but fortunately no one was killed in this one.  It was a hekuva blast nonetheless, and a reminder of the savage history from which Colombia has been steadily emerging since the US came in and plowed billions of dollars into a largely successful effort to eliminate the drug cartels, bolster a sagging military, and help clean up a government whose level of corruption has basically defined corruption.  Astute Colombianos cynically call it the national sport. And it still goes on.  Last year the mayor of Bogotá was convicted for embezzling millions at the expense of this capital city of eight million whose streets are choked with traffic streaming over crumbling pavement with potholes the size of small craters.

But the city and the burgeoning economy of Colombia are helping to lead South America into a more equitable world where a middle class is rising out of poverty and the rich upper classes are becoming more benign and compassionate.

That's the view from an 8th floor apartment in Rosales, an upscale section of town nestled against an impressive ridge of Andes bordering the east side.  There are embassies all around the neighborhood.  The Russian, Brazilian, Chilean and a host of others are a stone's throw away.  The American Ambassador's residence is a short walk.  But the most impressive thing to me are the highrises. They're all made of brick.  And the masonry work is an artform all its own.  In fact, that's one of the most compelling things about Bogotá, and all of Colombia for that matter.  The level of artisanship is astonishing.  World class.

I discovered this in very tangible fashion when I started recording here.  Everything to do with the production of "Coffee Colored Eyes" has been done with an artistic bent.  On the website, if you're interested, you can read some of the details, but I cannot overstate the skill and dedication of the people I have been fortunate to work with.  They're just damn good!

So, this little missive will wrap up.  The next one will probably come from the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena, one of the most celebrated ports on the Spanish Main, as it was known during the days of the Spanish conquest.  It was the primary point of embarkation for the plunder of the Incas, and it was plundered, itself, relentlessly by the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan.  In a couple of weeks, it will be the site of the Summit of the Americas.  I hope to have a ringside seat as we're trying to setup some video shoots for "Caribbean Feeling," the first single off the CD.

Hope you stick around for the updates.

WS